September 16, 2017
By Ameer Hassan Loggins
Ameer Hasan Loggins is a Doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley in African Diaspora Studies
On Monday evening ESPN’s Jemele Hill broke the internet, as they say, when she tweeted: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.” This didn’t go down too well in Washington DC. The White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said this was a “fireable offense.”
Putting aside the fact that this government meddling has a chilling effect on free speech, to me the most pressing question in all of this is: was Jemele Hill wrong? Let’s examine the facts.
In 1973, the Justice Department undertook an investigation of Trump Management for discriminating against prospective black applicants looking to rent housing in their properties. Both Donald and his father (Fred Trump), were named as defendants in the lawsuit, charging the Trump’s with violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in the operation of 39 buildings.
The Fair Housing Act was a bill that was passed in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. It was a key part of civil rights era legislation, and its primary reason for existing was to help dismantle housing segregation.
This is a documented case where Donald Trump was accused by the federal government of using a tactic of racialized housing discrimination, in order to maintain segregated living spaces. The Trump Management, in other words, was being sued for employing white supremacist, Jim Crow-esque practices.
It doesn’t stop there. Trump has politically aligned himself with politicians who have a documented history of racism. These people include Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, in 1986, had his nomination to a federal district court rejected after people who had worked with him in Alabama testified under oath that he had made racially charged remarks.
Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, who worked alongside Bannon, wrote on the Daily Wire that “under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart openly embraced the white supremacist alt-right … with [now former Breitbart editor Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist meme-makers”.
It is undeniable that Jemele Hill’s claim that Trump has surrounded himself with white supremacist checks out. But what about Trump himself? Is he a white supremacist? He definitely is a white supremacist sympathiser. Just look at Charlottesville.
After white supremacists held violent rallies in Charlottesville, leading to the killing of Heather D Heyer, Trump had a chance to denounce the racism and bigotry that led to her death. The man charged with killing her is James Alex Fields Jr, a man who made his mother believe that he was on his way to, “a Trump rally” . He did not. Instead, Trump blamed, “many sides.”
Trump and his family also have fringe views that are espoused by other white supremacists about genetics. Consider an an interview with PBS, in which Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio claimed Trump’s father, Fred Trump, had taught him that their family’s success was due to their genetic superiority.
D’Antonio explains that the Trump’s, “subscribe to a racehorse theory of human development ... They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.”
The interview featuring D’Antonio concludes with a clip of Donald Trump saying, “You know I’m proud to have that German blood. No question about it”.
Here is the thing, ideas of ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ genes have their roots in eugenics. Eugenics was a commonly accepted means in America of, “protecting society from the offspring of those individuals deemed inferior or dangerous – the poor, the disabled, the mentally ill, criminals, and people of color”. Adolf Hitler’s justification for the Holocaust was in part based on a similar theory of genetic hierarchy.
So, is Trump a white supremacist? I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions. Just remember, he was a) sued by the federal government for white supremacist practices of racialized housing discrimination b) hired Jeff Sessions and Steve Bannon c) ran a bigoted presidential campaign that galvanized white supremacists to hold rallies across America and d) believes in ethnoracial pseudo-scientific theories of genetic superiority.
Just why Jemele Hill should be in the cross-hairs for her analysis of these facts – and not the president himself – is a mystery to some, but quite clear to others.